PICA #049

A fortified steel Apple.


The world’s most valuable company has morphed from “Think Different” to “Don’t think about it”.

Remember when Apple launched the iPod and dedicated the first ten minutes of the presentation to convincing us that music was cool? No, me neither. However, when at the beginning of this week, Apple launched Apple News Plus they dedicated ten minutes to selling the coolness of magazines, newspapers and ‘curated’ journalism. Actually, the message was more ‘good for you’ than cool, it wasn’t exciting but it was very revealing. In the latest Apple event, it became very obvious how very different Cook’s Apple brand is to Jobs' Apple brand.

In that event, we were introduced to the Apple Card, Apple Arcade, Apple TV app and Apple TV Plus. A not very subtle hint that the company envisages the solidity of its financial future in services. The foundation of Apple’s fortune was an elegant hardware and software ecosystem. It’s still there, it’s huge, but it’s slowing down. The image of the hardware + software Apple brand was that of an enabler for creative people. The power that Apple (in collaboration with Adobe and others) has delivered to ordinary people, not just corporations, to create music, images, films, apps and anything else the “crazy ones” can imagine has been truly revolutionary. The opening video of the Apple event was a clever homage to this spirit and Apple’s heritage.

But the future that Cook has steered Apple into is hardware + software + services. With the iPhone/iPad/Mac cash-juggernaut spluttering, the company’s need to ensure massive future revenue streams obliges them to look to services and in particular subscription services as a solution. This will have a huge impact on the brand image. The Apple brand has effectively stopped being a brand for “doing” and become a brand for “consuming”. Don’t create your own blog, read one of the “3000” magazines (“Er, sorry about that, I mean 300!” Roger Rosner) in your Apple News Plus subscription. Don’t make a movie with iMovie or Final Cut, watch something on Apple TV Plus (according to a survey from MorningConsult/The Hollywood Reporter, 44% of millennials say they are interested in Apple's streaming service). Don’t design an app, play a game on Apple Arcade. Obviously, you will be paying for all this and more with Apple Card (3% daily cash-back!).

So what new brand image can function with that? It’s already been revealed and it’s officially called “private and secure” a phrase that was repeated many times on stage at the Steve Jobs Theatre. The billboard Apple put up in Las Vegas during CES said, ”What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone”. There you have it, Apple is no longer different, revolutionary, exciting, rather it is dependable, responsible, safe. Apple is now the Volvo of tech.

Adam Engst (founder of TidBits: “Thoughtful, detailed coverage of everything Apple for 28 years”) wrote the following on 11 March 2019, “Nevertheless, Apple Music works acceptably, and our HomePods are an improvement over the cobbled-together stereo system that had been limping along for decades. But while “acceptably” is what I’ve come to expect from Apple’s services, I hold out hope that the company will once again try for ‘insanely great.’” Sorry, Adam, Volvo doesn’t do ‘insanely great’.